Bilingual Processing Costs in HF non-cognates
Nadine Charanek, Vegas Hodgins and Olessia Jouravlev have investigated how prevalent are bilingual costs during native (L1) speech production at the International Conference on the Mental Lexicon 2022 and previously at the Words in the World Conference 2021.
Knowledge of multiple languages has some clear benefits for one’s personal and professional
lives. However, managing multiple languages in one mind is associated with some costs in the
language domain. Indeed, infants growing in bilingual environments are often delayed in
language acquisition (Genesee et al., 2004). Adult bilinguals make more speech errors, have
smaller vocabularies, and are slower in naming pictures and reading words than monolinguals
(e.g., Gollan et al., 2005; Gollan et al., 2007). Further, there are some claims that bilinguals
experience communicative challenges not only in their second language, but also in their native
language (e.g., Sadat et al., 2016).
In this project, we asked two questions about the prevalence of bilingual costs during native speech
Are bilingual costs present equally for all items? and
Are bilingual costs present equally in bilinguals of diverse linguistic backgrounds?
To answer these questions, we examined the picture naming performance of 65 English
monolinguals and 72 English-French bilinguals. The participants named images of objects in
English. The objects to be named were selected by crossing two factors. The first factor was a
cognate status of a corresponding word (cognate (ball/balle) vs. non-cognate(cake/gateau)). The
second factor was the lexical frequency of a corresponding word (high frequency (ball/balle) vs. low
The results revealed a Group by Cognate status interaction: Bilinguals were slower to name
objects compared to monolinguals if corresponding words were non-cognates. For cognate
words, no group differences were observed. Further, there was a significant Group by lexical
Frequency by Cognate Status interaction. Bilingual naming costs were higher for high-frequency
than for low-frequency words, but this effect was restricted to non-cognates. Finally, in the
exploratory examination of individual differences in bilingual naming costs, we observed that
balanced bilinguals were more likely to show evidence for slower L1 naming latencies than
bilinguals with more dominant L1.
These results are consistent with the view that bilingual costs arise due to competition between
activated lexical items. First of all, bilingual costs do not arise for cognates because the same
lexical item is activated across two languages. Secondly, these costs are higher for high
frequency words because the corresponding words from two languages are more likely to get
activated at approximately the same time and compete for selection. Finally, balanced bilinguals